Legislation aimed at banning coyote-hunting competitions in New Mexico has cleared its first legislative hurdle.
The majority of the Senate Conservation Committee gave the bill a do-pass recommendation during a packed hearing Thursday. The measure must win approval from two more committees before reaching the Senate floor for a vote.
The bill sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would outlaw coyote-killing contests after a number of recent competitions drew anger from animal rights advocates. The bill would not prevent landowners from hunting the predators on their property.
Ranchers and outfitters from around the state argued that the contests can be a tool for managing packs of coyotes that threaten cattle and sheep.
Supporters of the legislation called the practice barbaric and questioned whether there were any scientific benefits.
A Senate committee has tabled a proposal to significantly shift the mission of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The legislation sponsored by Democrat Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would give the department the authority to manage all wildlife as a public resource rather than managing game animals and fish for recreation and food as currently provided under law.
The measure also would give the gubernatorial appointees of the Game Commission authority over all wildlife rather than just game species.
The department argues that the legislation would effectively add another 6,000 species to the list of animals it's responsible for managing, costing millions of dollars more each year.
Game and Fish Director Alexa Sandoval called the measure an unfunded mandate, noting that the department's work is funded by sportsmen through licenses and other fees.
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